More arrests made under 2023 Retail Crime Prevention Act

The Alabama Retail Association, representatives from Home Depot, Target and Lowe’s as well as the bill sponsors watch the governor sign the Retail Crime Prevention Act. Photo by Hal Yeager/Gov. Kay Ivey

Retail Theft Crime Prevention Act
Act No. 2023-531

The Retail Theft Crime Prevention Act, creating the enhanced crimes of retail theft and organized retail theft took effect Sept. 1, 2023.

Act No. 2023-531 (SB206) by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, and Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, allows retailers to sign out warrants for arrests without leaving their stores, gives convicted thieves and their organizers real jail time plus monetary consequences and provides for training for prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.

Retail thieves feared no jail time or even arrest” before this legislation, said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. “The sheer volume of goods walking out of stores without being purchased was driving up the cost of goods bought legally and causing stores, small and big, to consider closing or moving elsewhere.

We appreciate the District Attorneys Association for pursuing this legislation and Senator Chambliss and Representative Treadaway for sponsoring it,” Brown said. Chambliss had introduced similar legislation in the past.

Women arrested after police say they stole $34,000 in merchandise from CVS stores around Alabama
(WBRC, June 20, 2024)

Three Mobile women charged with organized retail theft in connection with Troy Ulta thefts
(WTVY News 4, Feb. 29, 2024)

Hoover brothers allegedly made more than $1 million in massive retail theft scheme
(, Dec. 14, 2023)

Mobile cashier charged with organized retail theft
(NBC 15 News, Dec. 11, 2023)

Alabama law seeks to deter retail theft
(NBC 15 News, Dec. 4, 2023)

Three Montgomery women charged with organized retail theft in Opelika
(WSFA, Nov. 29, 2023)

First holiday shopping period since new law passed aims to crack down on shoplifting
(WBRC, Nov. 3, 2023)

10 charged this week with stealing from Decatur retailer following new retail theft legislation
(Decatur Daily, Sept. 28, 2023)

Legal panel educates Montgomery business owners on new retail theft law
(WSFA, Sept. 14, 2023)

Under this law, anyone is subject to a charge of retail theft if their intent is to knowingly take merchandise without paying for it or to deprive the merchant of all or part of the merchandise’s value. Knowing intent includes any of the following:

  • Taking possession of two or more items of retail merchandise by concealing it in any way.
  • Altering, transferring or removing the label, price tag or any other markings that aid in determining the value of retail merchandise and purchasing, or attempting to purchase, the merchandise at less than its value.
  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another with the intent to purchase the merchandise at less than its value.
  • Causing the cash register or other sales recording device to reflect less than the value of the merchandise.
  • Causing the amount paid to be less than the stated price.
  • Failing to scan the barcode and pay for merchandise at a cash register or self-checkout register.
  • Altering, disabling or removing any security or alarm device attached to or housing the merchandise prior to its purchase.
  • Removing or causing the removal of merchandise from the premises.
  • Collaborating with an employee to commit any of the above.

First-degree offenses include (1) retail theft of more than $2,500 in merchandise; (2) retail theft of one or more items during a 180-day period with an aggregate value of $1,000 or more; and (3) theft of a gun of any value. First-degree retail theft is a Class B felony.

Retail theft between $500 and $2,500 is a second-degree offense and a Class C felony. Retail theft that does not exceed $500 is a third-degree offense and a Class A misdemeanor. Four or more convictions for retail theft would be a Class C felony.

The new law makes organized retail theft an aggravated form of retail theft and a Class B felony. It is considered organized retail theft if anyone knowingly:

  • Organizes, finances, participates in or solicits another person to commit a retail theft.
  • Removes, destroys, deactivates or knowingly evades any component of an antishoplifting or inventory control device to prevent the activation of that device or to facilitate another person in committing retail theft.
  • Attempts, solicits or conspires with another person to commit retail theft.
  • Receives, purchases or possesses retail merchandise for sale or resale knowing or believing the retail merchandise was stolen from a retail merchant.
  • Uses any fraud, container, device or other article to facilitate a retail theft.
  • Remains unlawfully inside a retail establishment after business hours, with the intent to commit a retail theft.
  • Uses a wireless telecommunication device or other digital or electronic device to facilitate a retail theft.
  • Uses a rental or stolen motor vehicle or vehicle of another when committing retail theft for the purposes of the concealment of his or her identity.
  • Receives, retains or disposes of retail merchandise knowing that it has been stolen or having reasonable grounds to believe it has been stolen.

The law designates these values and time periods to the theft of one or more items as organized retail theft:

  • more than $2,500 in a one-year or longer period.
  • $1,000 or more during a 180-day period.
  • $500 or more during a 30-day period.

Proceeds of ORT and retail theft is subject to forfeiture and those convicted can be ordered to make restitution. The law also allows district attorneys to recommend court-ordered restitution in organized retail theft cases to law enforcement or prosecutors in addition to the retail merchants.

Retail theft and organized retail theft violators will be prosecuted in circuit or district court, not municipal court.

The law allows warrants for either crime to be sworn out remotely, digitally, via video link or by telephone and do not require the retailer to appear before a magistrate.

It also calls for training prosecutors and law enforcement agencies on how to combat these crimes.

A related law took effect July 1. Act No. 2023-461 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, adjusts sentences for Class C felonies and modifies the Class D felony.

The possibility of going to jail (under the state’s previous Class D statute) was zero,” Barry Matson, executive director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, said earlier. Matson said Orr’s legislation “returns discretion back to the judge” to give jail time or divert offenders to alternate courts, such as drug court.

Matson said adjusting the Class D felony was necessary in addition to the Retail Theft Crime Prevention Act to make sure retail thieves receive jail time.

The retail theft bills were supported by a coalition of groups that includes the Alabama Retail Association and the Alabama Small Business Commission, led by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth. The bills were part of a crime package developed by the Alabama District Attorneys Association. The Retail Association and several of its members briefed the state’s district attorneys and law enforcement communities about the prevalence of organized retail theft in our state and the challenges in catching, arresting and prosecuting the people behind the crimes.

Andrew Fox

During an April 13, 2023, news conference announcing the crime package, Andrew Fox, a corporate organized retail crime investigator with The Home Depot, told those assembled that “professional thieves are stealing … solely for the purpose of resale and profit. The continued growth of online marketplaces allows these thieves to easily resell stolen merchandise to unsuspecting consumers. These bills will help bring these actors to the forefront.

>> Watch his full remarks

Alabama officials working with federal law enforcement had been able to bring federal charges against perpetrators in two major organized theft cases in the past couple of years. In 2021, a Chelsea couple pled guilty to selling more than $300,000 in stolen items online. The couple owned an online business that sold among other items, baby formula. The formula had been stolen from various stores in north Alabama. The charge against the pair was conspiracy to commit interstate transport of stolen goods.

In 2022, six people were arrested in Marshall County and charged with first-degree receiving stolen property. The six included the owners and the employees of a local pawn shop. Still boxed, unopened merchandise valued at more than $42,000 from various retail merchants was confiscated. The owner was later charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

>> CBS Sunday Morning report on organized retail theft

The Alabama Legislature gave final approval to the act May 31, 2023. Gov. Kay Ivey officially signed it into law June 14 and ceremonially signed it Aug. 3, 2023.

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

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Originally posted 10 a.m. June 14, 2023; updated Aug. 3 and Sept. 1.